- Developing an effective climate change communication strategy can sometimes feel like a struggle.
- By using a clear strategy from the start, you can inspire your citizens to take an active interest in the climate actions needed within their cities.
“By telling a story of hope, opportunity, choice, human agility, and possibility, your climate message will show citizens how their choices today will positively impact the future of their city tomorrow.”
Building your climate change communication strategy
One of the key things to remember for your climate change communication strategy is to start simple. When deciding on your strategy, think about these four main criteria:
- Why? Set clear goals for the objective of your strategy. What are you aiming to achieve? How will you measure your success?
- Who. You’ll always be aiming to communicate with citizens of your city, but the specific audience may vary. You might be targeting real estate companies for one project, and citizens with unique interests for another project. Understanding who you’re targeting is key.
- What. Crafting your message correctly is vital. Offer value for each specific ‘who’ within your project, but don’t overwhelm them with too much information. Always consider how to link your climate change communication strategy to key actions your citizens can take.
- How. Once you’ve figured out the why, who, and what, it’s time to think about exactly how you’re going to reach your target audience. Choose channels you know your citizens use frequently, and don’t be tempted to use a scattergun approach - specificity is important here.
Mastering your climate messaging
When it comes to climate change communication, the tone and delivery of your content are key.
Get the messaging right and your citizens will feel informed and inspired to take positive action as part of their community. Get the messaging wrong… and citizens may feel overwhelmed by the doom and gloom narrative.
One way to meet your goal of clear communication is to focus on the three main categories you’ll need to meet in order to create an effective message.
It can be tempting to focus a climate change communication strategy on a disaster narrative with stories of extinction events, rising sea levels, and the disappearance of ecosystems at an alarming rate. While this can instil a sense of urgency in your readers, it’s more likely to make them feel pressured than disengaged, because it doesn’t seem like anything they do will make a difference.
Switching to a more positive communication method can help encourage action, so frame your story around the benefits a community will see when they participate in your strategies.
Effective communication relies on ‘plain English.’ Don’t be tempted to use jargon or overly scientific terminology, but instead stick to everyday phrases and words that all of your audience will understand.
Research has also shown that certain negative trigger words like ‘restrict’ and ‘regulate’ can discourage and alienate some citizens.
Consider adding clear visuals like infographics and charts to aid clear climate change communication.
Connection to citizen issues
By finding out what’s important to your citizens, and focusing on concrete benefits and outcomes, you can show your citizens how their local concerns can be improved when they take positive action. As an example, when citizens choose to use their automobiles less, their cities are quieter and less polluted as a result.
Always focus on the benefits of climate action. Using positivity to frame your message will inspire citizens to take more action than when using a negative or disaster-style framing.
Popular communication channels
Once you’re clear on your message and who you’re trying to reach, it’s time to decide which communication channel you should use to deliver your climate change communication strategy in the most effective way.
It’s useful to think about the following three questions:
What type of content will you create?
You may choose to use text, video, or pictures to get your message across - or a combination of them all. Specific media channels like Instagram and TokTok are effective at reaching a younger demographic. Infographics can quickly illustrate complex information like stats.
What communication method will you use for impact?
Always consider how to add an element of discovery and storytelling to your content in order to effectively engage your citizens. You’re aiming to educate, inspire, inform, and show the results of previous climate action initiatives.
Using a technique called ‘nudging’ is a great way to subtly influence people’s behaviour without them having to think too hard about the changes they’re making. As an example, offering free bike parking near workplaces can nudge people to bike more and drive less.
What channels will you execute on?
Start publishing on three channels, with the aim of expanding to more later. Always think back to your ideal customer avatar when considering which channels to use. If you’re targeting high-school students, then publishing in the traditional media is not going to be the right strategy, but Instagram or TikTok could be.
User-generated content is also a great way to drive engagement. Consider how you can encourage citizens to share their own stories on social media.
Harness the power of storytelling
Storytelling is one of the most powerful communication strategies. Climate change involves a lot of stats and dry data, but these alone aren’t necessarily enough to inspire your citizens to take action.
By weaving an engaging story instead, you can demonstrate desired results in a more inspirational way. Use empathy to engage your citizens' emotions, and bring them closer to the personal impacts of climate events.
Your city’s citizens are key to the success of any climate action strategy. By placing them at the centre of your strategy, you’re setting your city up for success.
Ready to future-proof your city? Download the full guidebook, where we look into how to design an effective and powerful climate change communication strategy in more detail.
Sander is Futureproofed's resident marketing wizard. His goal is to get the word out about our expertise in helping cities and companies become future-proofed. When he's not deep-diving in data and strategy you can usually find him on his bike, in the kitchen, or playing video games.